By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
Sammy Smith missed out by mere inches of victory lane last season at New Smyrna.
He came to the track with something to prove, as a defending champion, he wanted to kick off his title defense right.
Despite having to fight with Taylor Gray throughout the night, Smith was able to come out on top and earn his fourth career ARCA Menards Series East victory.
— Sammy Smith (@sammysmithSS) February 16, 2022
Smith started off his title defense by earning the General Tire Pole Award as ARCA combined the practice session with qualifying, something he only did once in 2021.
Smith not only had to battle Gray for the victory, but he also battled scattered light rain showers multiple times during the race which caused the race to stop for a red flag. The yellow flag was displayed late and put up a restart with six laps remaining, what’s the worst that could happen?
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) February 16, 2022
In 2021, the caution flew at lap 184 which set up for the finish that was spoken about most of the year with Max Gutierrez taking the victory by mere inches. During the final restart, Smith made sure that wouldn’t happen again or at least put as much gap between him and the field. Smith spoke afterward saying that Gray wasn’t being entirely fair during the restarts prior.
“(Gray) was jumping the restarts every time,” Smith said. “But we were able to get out of that one and get the win.”
Gray battled hard with Smith throughout the race Tuesday Night and was even sideways at some points but it wasn’t enough to earn the victory as he finished second. Gutierrez picked up his third career top-five finish and first since Dover in 2021. ARCA rookies Leland Honeyman and Donald Theetge rounded out the top five.
The ARCA Menards Series East will return on March 19th from Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Smith earned his first career victory in this race last season. The Pensacola 200 at Five Flags Speedway will be broadcasted live on FloRacing starting at 6 p.m. ET. Audio will also be available on ARCA Racing’s website. Smith will defend not only his ARCA East championship but will also defend his New Smyrna victory from 2021.
Photo: Brandon Zumbach